Monday, December 22, 2008

Merry Christmas, Stacy

Christmas ornament hand-painted by 10-year-old Stacy.

As I was growing up, a tradition in our family was for my parents to give us ornaments from places they had traveled each year, and SWAC Husband and I continued the tradition with our children ... so we have a number of "special" ornaments that are placed on the tree year after year.

As I carefully unwrapped the tissue paper from around one particular ornament, memories flooded back as I saw the hand-painted ceramic decoration for the tree.

It was a jack-in-the-box painted in 1975 by a 10-year-old boy named Stacy. I held the ornament in my hands and remembered back to the days when, as a young 20-year-old, I worked at Children's Hospital in Richmond (called Crippled Children's Hospital in those days)....

Stacy touched my heart more than any other child I worked with because of his devilish sincerity. I loved that child. He was from southwest Virginia, one of many children from a large, poor Appalachian family. As best I can remember, his siblings were playing cowboys and Indians and tied him to a tree, piled leaves at the base of the tree, and set the leaves on fire.

Stacy was horribly burned, so much so that both legs and one arm had to be amputated. He came to Children's Hospital for rehabilitation.

The patients at the hospital lived in the dorms and received daily treatment as well as schooling. Stacy was with us for a long time as they worked with him to heal his stumps so he could receive prosthetic devices to help him lead a normal life.

For someone who had been through such a horrible experience, he had a devilish sense of humor. He was funny, playful, and almost always in a good mood. Perhaps it was the love he received from all of us as he went through physical therapy, recreational therapy (which was where he painted the Christmas ornament), and the one-on-one education he received.

I still remember the day he presented the decoration to me. I kneeled beside his wheelchair to be at his eye level as he flamboyantly presented it to me ... then I took it home to my Christmas tree and, after the holidays, packed it away. Every year for the past 32 years it has been placed on my tree.

Stacy would now be a young man in his 40s. I don't know what happened to him ... I lost track after leaving Children's Hospital. I have often wondered where he was, how his life turned out, and if he was able to handle the emotional scar of such a life-changing incident so young in his life.

I placed his ornament on the tree and again wished Stacy a Merry Christmas, wherever he is....

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